Westport River Watershed Alliance
River News - May, 2014
Heads Up... WRWA is Moving Up-River

Matthew Patrick, Executive Director  

An architectural rendering of WRWA's new office.


Last week the Westport River Watershed Alliance purchased the Head Garage at 493 Old County Road, Westport, for its new headquarters. Building on a strong 38-year tradition of environmental stewardship, science and advocacy, the new location offers many new opportunities. It is visible; it is centrally located in the "heart "of the Westport community; it is near the schools, library and senior center; it is near important storm water projects; it is a unique opportunity to demonstrate non-traditional eco-toilets; and best of all, it's on the river.


At the recent May 3rd Town Meeting voters unanimously supported a recommendation from the Community Preservation Committee to fund the restoration of the exterior of the historic building. Work on that will begin when contracts have been secured for construction and a land lease arranged with the Town Landing Commission.


WRWA's new headquarters offer not only expanded demonstration space but, most importantly, the opportunity to install and demonstrate alternative wastewater technologies to reduce nitrogen inputs to the river. Other eco-friendly design features will also be included.


WRWA will host River Day at the Head Landing on Saturday, June 28. This year visitors will be able to tour the building and hear about future plans and activities. Everyone is vital to this project as it moves forward. More information will be forthcoming on how you can help. In the meantime any questions or suggestions can be directed to director@wrwa.com.

Executive Director's Report 

Matthew Patrick, Executive Director  


We are gearing up for plenty of activity this time of year.  Below is a brief synopsis. 

  • Betsy will be helping the Town install a rain garden at Sam Tripp Brook on Drift Road to remedy a major ongoing source of stormwater runoff.  She is also collaborating with the Westport Board of Health on a proposal for a nutrient management project regarding innovative alternative septic systems and eco-toilets in conjunction with the Community Septic Management grant program. Betsy will also be maintaining a watchful eye on various wetland issues in town.
  • Regarding the Cecil Smith land fill project, the Dartmouth Board of Health has passed a restriction on the dumping of road sweepings.  The Department of Environmental Protection is deciding if they will challenge it.
  • It has come to our attention that the Cockeast Pond entrance has become choked with algae in an early bloom.  Betsy is monitoring this new development as well as bank collapse.
  • Roberta manages two important water sampling projects.  One is in partnership with the Buzzards Bay Coalition's, BayWatchers Program.   Eleven volunteers test the river through the summer for oxygen, clarity, salinity and temperature.  Additionally WRWA works with BBC four times a summer to test the River for nutrients.  We collect the samples and get them to the BBC for testing. She also does weekly tests from the boat for bacteria throughout the summer at 10 spots on the River and 10 spots on various tributaries.  The results are posted on our website weekly.
  • Roberta has applied for $15,000 in funding from the Massachusetts Environmental Trust to do more wet and dry sampling on the West Branch.  In her proposal she incorporated the production of an educational brochure on dog waste that will be available for people purchasing beach stickers and shellfish permits and in veterinarian offices.  This part of the project would be transferable to other towns.
  • Roberta will also be helping to coordinate the Westport Highway crew in the rain garden project at the Middle School.
  • The Hix Bridge rubble removal project got a nice boost with the passage of the Transportation Bond Bill.  The State committed about $300,000 to the cost of the million-dollar project that will remove the rubble of past bridges from under Hix Bridge.  They have already contacted the Army Corps of Engineers who will come up with the balance of the project.  The Town of Westport may have to come up with the cost of over $100,000 for a feasibility study.  This can be in the form of in-kind non-cash funding or work from either WRWA or the Town.  The feasibility study is required by the ACOE.  Our efforts will be to assist the Town in getting the money and facilitating an agreement between the Town and the ACOE. 


It's Time to Renew Your Membership


Just as Spring is a time of renewal, with new hopes, greening trees, warming days, it is also time to renew your annual WRWA membership. Working together we can do our part in protecting and restoring the River. WRWA conducts two fundraising solicitations each year: a Membership Drive in the spring and our Annual Fund Drive in the fall. Each is critical to sustain our work; we truly appreciate your continued support.


Please renew your membership today so we can make a difference. You can renew online here: http://westportwatershed.org/become-a-member/.

Watershed Ride is June 15

Westport Watershed Ride


Start training now for WRWA's Father's Day Bike Ride on Sunday, June 15. Cyclists will again choose from several bike routes and set off from Buzzards Bay Brewing on Horseneck Road to enjoy the watershed's beautiful landscapes. The ride ends back at the Brewery where lunch and refreshments will be provided. This is a great way to spend time with your family and friends as you cruise the back roads and support a great organization. Pre-registration is $40 member, $50 nonmember and day of $50 member, $60 nonmember. For more information and course maps visit our website: http://westportwatershed.org/news-events/westport-river-watershed-ride/

River Day is June 28


On Saturday, June 28 celebrate the river. Paddlers can meet at Hix Bridge and paddle up river to the Head Landing where many fun activities are planned - fish printing (bring some of your clothing to print), face painting, lots of music, a live raptor show and much more. Check the website for more details.


Congratulations to River Day poster winner  Hannah Abrams, 1st grader at the Westport Elementary School for her drawing depicting an egret reflected in the river. This year's theme is "Reflection".


We are always in need of volunteers for River Day. If you are interested in helping please call us at 508 636 3016 or email g.gillespie@wrwa.com


WANTED - Volunteers for Water Testing

Roberta Carvalho, Science Director


Measuring Water Clarity

Each summer WRWA partners with the Buzzards Bay Coalition to collect data on water quality in the Westport River.  This program has been active since 1992. Baywatcher volunteers measure the following parameters once a week from May to September, between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m.

  • Dissolved oxygen
  • Temperature
  • Salinity
  • Water clarity

A good Baywatcher is someone who is consistent, can follow scientific instructions, and is agile enough to work on docks and piers along the water's edge. Baywatchers get training prior to monitoring, and are not required to have a science background. The Baywatchers program has the dual benefit of accomplishing comprehensive water quality monitoring while empowering citizens to become educated and passionate Bay guardians. Volunteers are needed to test at Hix Bridge, Westport Point, and Charlton's Wharf.  We also need help testing at Quicksand Pond in Rhode Island. To volunteer please contact Roberta (water at wrwa.com) if you are interested in helping out.

Poaching by Net at Cockeast Pond
  Cockeast Pond
Westport Fish Commission reports that seine nets have been seen overnight at the entrance culvert at Cockeast Pond in Acoaxet. The Commission concludes illegal poaching is going on. WRWA members are asked to look out for any nets near the Cockeast Pond entrance creek. If observed, do not touch the nets or confront poachers. Instead, notify the Massachusetts Department of Natural Resources hotline at 617-556-1000, and the Westport Police at 311.
Happy Birthday to an Historic US Law
Betsy White, Advocacy Director


The Clean Water Act (CWA) is 42 years old this year, and is an act that has had significant impact on cleaning up our nation's waters. It was created in 1972 in response to the declining health of countless rivers, streams, lakes and bays throughout the United States.  The CWA set a new national goal "to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation's waters".  According to the EPA, before the Clean Water Act only about a third of U.S. water was safe for swimming or fishing.  The country was losing up to 500,000 acres of wetlands per year, and tap water was becoming more and more tainted with chemicals. After four decades under the CWA, an estimated 65 percent of U.S. waterways now pass the fishable/swimmable test, while average wetland losses have fallen below 60,000 acres per year.


The CWA seeks to make all U.S. waters "fishable and swimmable", which is how the EPA defines surface water quality. This means that all waters must at least support recreation and aquatic life, although states can designate more specific uses, such as drinking water, swimming and cold water fishery. So, under this law, each state must determine the amount of pollution each water body may contain and still remain healthy - these are the surface water quality standards.  A surface water quality designation should protect all existing uses and may also recognize potential uses. It does not correspond to existing water quality conditions.

The water quality standards are the basis for the federally-mandated Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) that are currently being established for most of the country's water bodies. Waters that are not able to support their designated uses are "impaired" and in need of restoration. TMDLs are used to create a plan to prevent or reduce the pollution into the water body sufficiently enough to meet the load limit and support the uses.

In Massachusetts, the water quality standards are separate for Inland Waters (Class A, B, or C) and Coastal and Marine Waters (Class SA, SB, or SC), but are quite similar.  The Westport River has been assigned a water quality standard by the State of SA for the West Branch and SB for the East Branch. SA is the highest class, and it means that the waters are designated as an excellent habitat for fish and wildlife, and for swimming, fishing and boating. SB is the designation for the same uses, but the habitat is not considered excellent. Unfortunately, each branch of the River has been assessed as being polluted, or "impaired", for both nitrogen and bacteria. Massachusetts has already established a TMDL for bacteria, which determines beach and shellfishing closures. The Massachusetts Estuaries Project (MEP) has been created to help the State determine TMDLs for nitrogen. The TMDLs for the Westport River will help the Town determine the best ways to reduce nitrogen pollution.

The Clean Water Act is not perfect, but it is effective and powerful. It has been a life saver for the nation's water bodies, both fresh and marine. Through this act we have eliminated or greatly reduced raw sewage discharges, huge fish kills, chemical releases, oil-slicked waters, and oil-saturated beaches. Estuaries, rivers, salt marshes, lakes, and ponds have been allowed to thrive. Wetlands and coastlines are protected, drinking water is cleaner, and industrial discharges are under close scrutiny. Yet, we should not be satisfied. There is still too much "dirty water" out there, and closer to home we must still deal with our own pollution problems. But as long as we continue to recognize, appreciate, and celebrate the value and benefits of clean water, the health of the Westport River and the surface waters of our nation will continue to improve.  

WRWA Summer Programs for KIDS
What are you up to this summer? Join WRWA for our fun filled summer science programs. Registrations are coming in already so sign up early.



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